21 March 2010

Interview with Roger Sloman.

Just last night I sat up in my usual insomniatic state watching an old VHS of Rik Mayall's Kevin Turvey - The Man Behind the Green Door. In this, we see the ever reliable on screen 'bastard' familiar character that was actor Roger Sloman playing a maniacal Park Keeper. A familiar face of 80s British television.
Anyway, I'm a sucker for those British 'kitchen sink' and realist dramas, Ken Loach does them very, very well, as does Mike Leigh, and it's in his cult 1976 'play for today' Nuts In May - one of my top five films ever, that could be considered Roger Sloman's finest hour. Being a bearded and slightly balding veggie myself, I perhaps have a little bit too much in common for my own liking with the star of the show, Keith Pratt, played by Sloman, one half of a hippy, trendy couple on a camping holiday in Dorset. An unlikely icon if ever there was one Keith Pratt is uptight, intolerable and fussy, yet unfathomably cool, to me any how. So yeah, last night's crap late night viewing prompted me to dig up this interview from my pals at Proper Magazine issue 5, the interview and following piece was scribed by Neil Summers.

Alison Steadman, Roger Sloman and Mike Leigh, taking a break on location.

The name Roger Sloman probably won’t mean much to you unless you’re a bit of a TV geek or like me he’s one of your heroes. Though once you see his face you’ll go ‘oh yeah him, oh God what was he in?’. The reason for me holding Roger in such high esteem is not for his sterling performance as Mr Foster in the glory days of Grange Hill nor his short but sweet cameo appearances in the Young Ones, Ripping Yarns, Blackadder or Bottom. No, the reason I love Roger so much is because in 1976 he played the male lead in a unique piece of tele-visual drama, namely the Mike Leigh play for today ‘Nuts In May’. His performance as neurotic civil servant Keith alongside his down-trodden wife Candice-Marie (played equally as brilliantly by Alison Steadman) is for me a land-mark in British comedy character acting. Until you have seen a man in a woollen polo-neck sweater threatening to knock a Brummy glam-rocker’s block off with a log before breaking down in tears you really haven’t seen anything. As some people divide the population into those that have taken acid and those that haven’t I decide on who I’m going to be friends with by dividing them into two categories, namely ‘those that find Nuts In May funny as fuck’ and ‘those that watch it for about half an hour without managing so much as a smirk’ with the former being the ones I just to share my crate of Koppaberg/future with. So any-way, that’s who Roger Sloman is, you know him even if you think you don’t and here are some questions the legend very kindly took time out to answer for us.

The character you played in Nuts In May ‘Keith Pratt’ is without a doubt one of the funniest people to have ever graced our screens. How did you come up with all his neurotic traits and obsessive quirks?
As with all Mike Leigh plays there is a process that builds a character. I started out with someone I knew and added bits as we went along.Before Nuts in May Keith and Candice Marie were in a stage play called Wholesome Glory and a lot of the traits and quirks were in place before we started in Dorset.

I also have to say Alison Steadman’s ‘Candice Marie’ is a similarly wonderful character, was it difficult keeping a straight faces doing scenes together? Have you worked with Alison since?
Alison and I always stayed pretty much in character while we were working but there were times when we cracked up afterwards. I have worked with Alison again in a great series called 'The Missing Postman'

The play itself has genuine cult status, are you aware of just how popular it is?
I'm still surprised by the cult status. This year I was invited to a Nuts in May theme party and a lot of people can quote the dialogue. Some Bournemouth film students toured the locations.

What was working with Mike Leigh like? How much of the script was ad-libbed?
Mike Leigh is a remarkable director. I enjoyed every minute. The film was improvised and a script was devised but there were still a few sections improvised on camera.

The scene where Keith loses the plot and attacks ‘Finger’ with a large branch before having a mini-breakdown is quite possibly THE funniest thing I have ever had the pleasure of seeing, how did you manage to make his emotional outburst so convincing and did it take a long time to shoot?
Keith loses the plot because he is backed into a corner and can find no way out but to confront Finger head on which he would rather not do. Having crossed the line it overwhelms him. The sequence had been rehearsed and was shot quite quickly.

Thirty years on, what do you think Keith Pratt would be doing now?
Thirty years on Keith is probably still at the DHSS in a consultancy capacity. Still involved with the Environment but his views don't seem so unusual now. And of course he is as popular as ever with his neighbours!

You’ve got one of the most recognisable faces in the UK, does everyone you meet act like they know you?
Some people recognise me and I have some very nice chats with people.

In a lot of your roles you’ve played people who seem to have quite a short temper, are you anything like that in real life? What things tend to wind you up?
I don't think I have a short temper but then I suppose I wouldn't. I get wound up about Traffic and Reality TV.

What are you up to at the moment and where can we see you next?
I am playing an old soldier in an upcoming Foyle's War and have just been on stage in Manchester in Henry V.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
I tend to have New Year intentions because they are easier and this year I am going to count my blessings!

If you've just read this and are wondering what on earth I'm going on about then find it, buy it and piss yourself laughing at it.
I'm sure it may not currently be available, and is becoming harder to find
which is just criminal. You need to watch it in full, but here are a couple of clips from the film. One and Two

1 comment:

  1. heres a link to download